How to make a gingerbread house for Christmas - - No One Gets You Closer

How to make a gingerbread house for Christmas

Updated: Dec 7, 2011 03:51 PM EST
Unlike soft, store-bought cake icings, royal icing dries stiff and will hold your construction together. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock) Unlike soft, store-bought cake icings, royal icing dries stiff and will hold your construction together. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

By Roberta Pescow

Gingerbread houses bring fairy tale magic to your Christmas holiday. No matter what your experience or skill level, just about anyone can enjoy creating an original, one-of-a-kind gingerbread house.

Getting Started

Having the right supplies gives you the chance to enjoy your project and allows your creativity to flow without interruption. Here are some basic gingerbread house building and decorating ingredients to have on hand, besides of course, gingerbread cookies and your building plans:

- Royal icing
- Food coloring to color your icing, if desired
- Colored sugar
- Shredded coconut
- Jelly beans
- White chocolate
- Milk or dark chocolate bars
- Gummy candies
- Mini M&Ms, Reese's Pieces or Skittles
- Mini Candy Canes
- Gum drops
- Mini sour balls
- Tiny cookies
- Tiny gingerbread people
- Frosted Mini Wheats cereal or Shredded Wheat

You'll find beautiful plans for gingerbread houses online, or you might want to design your own and cut them out on cardboard. The easiest option is to purchase an embossed baking plaque with the basic building shapes ready to fill with dough. Feel free to add any attractive, edible decorations for a one-of-a-kind creation.

Gingerbread Dough: Your Basic Building Block

Gingerbread cookies are the basic building blocks of your gingerbread house, forming the walls and roof. The gingerbread cookies used to build a house, while edible, are much tougher than the gingerbread cookies you'd normally eat because they're made from gingerbread construction dough. Gingerbread construction dough has more flour than a regular cookie recipe, so that the cookies are sturdier and suitable for building.

You have the option to bake with a commercial gingerbread dough mix or make your own dough from scratch, depending on how ambitious you are. If you'd like to make your own dough, try this simple recipe. You'll need:

- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
- ¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- 5 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of ginger
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon of cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon of allspice
- ½ teaspoon of salt.

To make the cookies, follow these simple steps:

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter into the buttermilk and then remove from heat.

2. Mix in molasses and brown sugar.

3. Beat in the egg.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together salt, spices, baking soda and one cup of the flour.

5. Mix this dry mixture into your wet mixture.

6. Add additional flour, about a cup at a time, mixing until dough is stiff and smooth.

7. Divide the dough into two equal parts, wrap in plastic, flatten out and refrigerate for at least one hour before shaping.

8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and take half the dough from one of your bags out of the refrigerator. Let remaining dough chill until you are ready to work with it.

9. Roll out dough into embossed baking plaque if you have one. Otherwise, roll out on wax paper and cut into baking shapes using your templates. Be sure you have four walls, and panels for the roof. Cut out windows and a door before baking.

10. Use remaining dough to create trees, chimneys, shutters, animals or people.

11. Use wax paper to transfer your shapes to cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.

12. Place the cookie sheet on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before carefully removing cookies with a spatula.

Royal Icing: Your Basic Mortar

Unlike soft, store-bought cake icings, royal icing dries stiff and will hold your construction together. To make it, you'll need:

- 3 tablespoons of meringue powder
- 4 cups of confectioners' sugar
- 5 tablespoons of warm water
- ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Beat all ingredients together until peaks form, which will take between seven to 12 minutes, depending on the type of electric mixer you use. If you're not going to use your royal icing right away, be sure to keep it covered.

To assemble your gingerbread house, use a stiff piece of cardboard and pipe the royal icing into the seams between your gingerbread house components to "glue" them together. If you don't have a pastry bag, try a plastic bag with a hole cut in a corner. You may need to prop up your house while the icing is drying.

Decorating Your Gingerbread House

Decorations and embellishments are what make your gingerbread house unique. Any tiny candies or nuts stuck into the seams help define your design. You can also use the royal icing to glue edible decorations anywhere on the building. Some other ideas for finishing touches include:

- Melted white chocolate and/or shredded coconut for snow
- Shredded wheat or frosted mini wheat cereal for thatched roofs
- Green colored sugar for grass.
- Chocolate squares for doors or shutters.
- Clear gelatin sheets for windowpanes.

Simple Alternative Homes

If making an actual gingerbread house sounds too daunting for you, or you'd just like to expand your gingerbread neighborhood, try these other easy edible home projects with the royal icing recipe:

- Pretzel "log cabins"
- Sugar cube "igloos"
- Graham cracker homes.

Whether you have just an hour or a whole day to devote to your project, you can create a charming gingerbread home that will enrich your holiday experience.


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